(Blogger note: Except for 2013-14 updates below, much of this website was written between 2009-11. Reader update: All 'abba4ever' forum hyperlinks (within the blog's text) are defunct. (Forum has closed.))

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Agnetha's best, and not: 'Maybe It Was Magic'

Within just a few seconds in Agnetha Fältskog's 1987 song "Maybe It Was Magic", one may hear the very best of the expressive singer, and then - almost immediately -  a bit of the less-than-optimal. (Note: A link to one available version of the song is included, below.)
(A short, funny video with Agnetha's name pronounced is here.)  

The ex-ABBA singing star's special voice has been discussed in several posts in this blog, including this one that contains insightful comments from long-time listeners. (Sourced from the excellent 'abba4ever' forum.)

From Agnetha's 1987 I Stand Alone album, "Maybe It Was Magic" is a standout track for many. (My "retro"-review of the decent album is linked here.) The sweet-sounding singer is often best at sadder, yearning ballads such as this one. A genuine "ache" of regret...of longing... in her voice, at times.

The finest moment on the entire album (for this listener) commences after the oddly 'booming' drum bit at around the 3:12 mark (on the audio CD). The next fifteen seconds that follow the drums are exceptional. Agnetha's "There was something in your voice" line, sung around the 3:20-22 mark, is difficult to describe. It's a timeless moment. (Possibly an oxymoron.) The line stands out and grabs the listener. How her voice slightly breaks between "your" and "voice" is perfect interpretation. (Intentional or not.) Transcending standard "sweet, with feeling mode" for just a moment, Agnetha delivers it with a trace of hoarseness. (Perhaps the (occasional) "exposed surface" in her voice, noted by Brita Ahman in the "As I Am" biography.) The singer's strong emphasis here of the word 'your' is also....great.  And Agnetha's all-her-own sweet finish to the word "voice" adds uniqueness.

It's better to listen to the effort on a high-fidelity recording (with headphones). As a notch-or-two-under (audio) substitute, a link follows to an album version of "Maybe It Was Magic", currently on You Tube. (Thanks to YT user 'ji61m' for posting it.) The section referred to above also begins at around 3:12 in the YT vid.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJTDpojPQ5Y&fmt=18

Also, another YT link featuring an excellent tribute/production by '2Shaymcn'. E.g., the "cut" to a 'live' performance at this production's 3:13 mark (around the same moment (in the song) as described above): "Awesome"... (Beautiful Agnetha helps make it so.) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTMr6MALkGI

While listening, the line noted above and the deeper (self-harmonized) next one, "When you used to call my name", evoke an American country music feeling. I would have liked to hear much more of this form or 'style' of singing from the Swedish star. 'Maybe It Was Magic' would have been an interesting U.S. country song attempt, especially if more lines were interpreted/recorded like the ones above. (More is written below re this...) Agnetha's vocals here fleetingly recall American singer Juice Newton....




For this listener perhaps the "other side of the coin" occurs just seconds after the song section just described. Possibly the impending transition from the lower-voice line "When you used to call my name" is a difficult one. (3:24-3:26 in the video above.) At any rate the very next words, "There are moments in my life", sung much higher; tends to find the artist sounding a little like a young girl. (To this listeners ears, anyway. (3:27-3:30 in the video. Though oddly, this line sounds slightly better in the video than on the album.) As noted in a previous post here, the singer occasionally didn't sound her best in a few, higher-register moments. Sometimes her voice would "pinch", or sound slightly tense; constricted. But note also that in many efforts she's very pleasing to hear in the higher register (using her falsetto voice, at times).

Regardless: It's "trademark" Agnetha; a beautifully "sweet and sad" singer. A song of loss and regret, but the artist's inherently bright voice (also) helps smooth it. (Somehow sounds as if she had a smile at times while singing.....) The artist is critical of some of her past efforts but it is still surprising that (the) becoming "Maybe It Was Magic" is not included on her "best of" compilations.
(Updated insert: I did not examine the song's lyrics in this post, but for ABBA fans especially, it is easy to imagine that perhaps Agnetha was singing of her times with ex-husband Björn....)

Though not a voice or singing expert, it's still interesting how (recorded) Ms.Fältskog conjured these reactions from me within less than twenty seconds of her song performance....

It is of course, subjective. Others can and will hear it differently. And for this fan, Agnetha's few, lesser singing moments still compare with many others' usual ones. Her strengths far outweigh any perceived weaknesses. 

© 2009-2011 (original portions)

Addendum: As far as I know... this is a completely theoretical aside. I.e., I find no indication that the following ever actually occurred or existed:

Beautiful and talented Olivia Newton-John established herself worldwide (as a singer) starting with her 1973-4, American country crossover hits. (E.g., Let Me Be There, If You Love Me, Let Me Know, I Honestly Love You.)

Through much of the 1970's, Agnetha Fältskog - a similarly beautiful and talented female singer vis-a-vis Ms. Newton-John (both close in age also) - was almost entirely occupied with juggernaut ABBA plus her two small children. (Agnetha did manage a fine, solo Swedish album of her own though, co-producing  Elva Kvinnor I Ett Hus in 1975.) But ABBA and the children took precedence until the super-group dissolved in the early 1980s. As detailed throughout this blog, Ms. Fältskog then launched her relatively short, English solo music career segment.
 
Getting to the point: As ABBA the group climbed to the pinnacle of '70s pop music, did Agnetha ever "glance over" and contemplate the solo singing success (and more) of similarly-talented Olivia? (ABBA's 1974 Eurovision Song Contest competitor. (Vanquished, at the time.)) And could the thought have occurred at some point (back then)...."that could be or could have been me"...?? (Note: ABBA (incl. Agnetha) once even appeared on an Olivia network TV special (in America) at the time. Link to one YT video from that appearance...)

Who knows? From the perspective of this blog/'lens' about Ms. Fältskog's solo in-English music, it is an intriguing - and totally subjective - speculation. For once, I'm not going to 'riff' on it, ad nauseum.  Just will leave that (possible) question from long-ago out there, but still assert this:
Making it "large" as an English solo singer - or not: Agnetha sings in English beautifully, with an occasional "tinge" of Swedish; often charming- and/or sexy-sounding. (Something like the performer herself...) However, unlike Aussie-English-speaking Olivia, Agnetha would probably have contended with the perceived disadvantage of English as a second language. Family-focused Ms. Fältskog also would likely not have committed the time and travel (or relocation) necessary to succeed in large, English-speaking markets. (Ultimately, that's America.) Embarking upon her English solo work in the early '80s, Agnetha further might not have wanted to (appear to) directly follow the "trail blazed" by successful, "crossover Olivia", just a few years earlier.  Etc., etc.

But when I hear "Maybe It Was Magic" (in focus, above), it leaves this one experienced listener with very little doubt that versatile-voiced (vs. Olivia), emotion-conveying singer Agnetha could have crossed over beautifully to America's country music genre. (A good all-around performer and not as shy/reserved (on-stage), Olivia had her comparative strengths...and appeal.) (Continuing:) Mainly self-imposed limits (per above) probably prevented this - if the inclination existed at all. Otherwise, just being seen and heard by the "right people", performing the "right" kind of song....would have sealed the deal for gifted Agnetha.

Just one of several possible scenarios where all of America (perhaps all of the Americas...) would have gotten to know Agnetha Fältskog. If she had wanted it to happen... Being properly presented and heard -- all that was needed.

(P.S. If anyone knows more (factual information) about this particular subject, please leave a comment....)

Note: This entry is backdated to better fit within the order of posts here. Last edited: 2010-11.

Link to my full blog: http://star4abba.blogspot.com/

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